White House officials are going the extra mile to ensure President Biden does not test positive for COVID-19, potentially undermining the administration’s own message about vaccine efficacy.
During Monday’s National Governors Association winter meeting at the White House, Biden was seated at least 10 feet away from all other attendees and was the only person given a glass of water — thereby ensuring no one else needed to remove their face coverings.
Additionally, a White House staffer who had been wearing a surgical mask was reportedly given a N95 face covering once the president entered the room.
All this took place despite Biden being fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot in late September.
Biden, 79, ran into several COVID-19 scares throughout his first year in office after close members of his administration, including White House press secretary Jen Psaki and other aides, contracted the virus.
The White House has not publicly announced whether the president has contracted COVID-19 since taking office, but has noted negative tests by Biden on multiple occasions — a continuation of their practice from the 2020 campaign.
As the Omicron variant swept through the US earlier this year, Psaki revealed that the White House would be ramping up its coronavirus precautions around both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
The new measures would include mandatory mask-wearing and daily testing for those coming in contact with either Biden or Harris. Gatherings in the White House were restricted to “under 30 people” — though Monday’s event with the governors had almost 40 people in attendance, according to the Associated Press.
During Monday’s event, Biden admitted that the US has “a way to go” to fully get out of the pandemic and back to “normal.”
“I know you spoke today with … the head of my COVID team [Jeff Zients] in here,” Biden said. “We got a way to go on that, in my view, but we’re moving. And so I think it’s all about making sure we have the same standards we’re applying across the board.”
Administration officials have expressed concerns that a positive test for Biden would be seized upon by vaccine skeptics to erode confidence in the highly effective inoculations. At the same time, critics suggest the administration is itself undermining trust in the vaccines by taking extra precautions.
“If we plan on having restrictions as long as anyone can get COVID, even in the most mild form, the restrictions will never end,” pseudonymous commentator A.G. Hamilton posted on Twitter this past July, later adding: “If you are vaccinated, you should be able to live your life [without] fear.”
Spectator contributing editor Stephen L. Miller has repeatedly noted Biden’s curious habits when it comes to wearing masks, including wearing them outdoors and taking them off when interacting with others.
“Biden says people don’t have to wear masks in high vaccination areas. He said this while he is wearing a mask and reporters around him are wearings [sic] masks,” Miller tweeted July 29.
Two months later, Miller commented on a video clip of Biden greeting California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“Biden doesn’t have a mask on. Goes to put a mask on. Takes mask off as Newsom greets him,” Miller related. “Perhaps someone would like to ask him what the consistency of his policy is here?”
The White House did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment, though Psaki was asked Monday about the “disconnect between the White House’s messaging for Americans that they should … take precautions but they can go about their daily lives in the midst of this Omicron surge, particularly if they’re vaccinated and boosted, but also the precautions that are taken because the President is the President.”
“The President’s view, which I think you heard him speak to in his press conference just about 10 days ago, is that COVID and our efforts to address COVID are not going to exist in this current world we’re living in now,” Psaki said. “This is not the new normal — what we’re living in, in this moment. And that’s important for the public to understand.”
“So, we are in a very different place,” the press secretary added. “I don’t think we see it as a disconnect. The President’s view is that right now we still need to keep our heads down and stay at it to fight what is still, you know, surging in parts of the country, but we do have the tools to get to a point where it does not disrupt our daily lives.”
Despite strict measures inside the White House, Biden has a history of breaking coronavirus-related orders across the country.
In October, the president was spotted violating Washington DC’s indoor mask mandate when walking through an Italian restaurant. Biden was seen carrying his mask in his hands.
One month later, the president was criticized for entering a store in Nantucket without a face covering, despite a large sign on the establishment’s door that read “REQUIRED FACE COVERING.”
With Post wires